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Good Question: Why Is This Pope So Popular?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- He pulled the papacy out of the palace and into the streets.

That's just one reason why Time magazine says it named Pope Francis its "Person of the Year" Wednesday. Only two other popes have ever won that distinction.

It's even more impressive considering Pope Francis has only led the church since February.

"In the wake of a lot of bad things happening, he's bringing goodness back to the church," said one church-goer at St. Olaf Catholic Church Wednesday night.

"He's a Pope who speaks from the heart and acts from the heart," said another.

The talk after church wasn't so much about the homily as it was about the Pope beating out Miley Cyrus, Edward Snowden and President Obama, among others.

But then again, it's hard to argue with what Pope Francis has done in just a short amount of time.

"I'm a huge fan of Pope Francis. He's revitalizing a 2,000-year-old institution," said Charles Reid, a law professor from the University of St. Thomas.

Reid also writes about religion for the Huffington Post, and has followed the rise of Pope Francis.

"He's made an appeal to atheists," Reid said. "He has indicated he does not judge gays. He's making the church a warm, inviting place."

There are images to go with words: The Pope hugging a disfigured man, or shaking hands with a little girl.

There are also selfless acts: Pope Francis even sneaks out in the middle of the night to feed and clothe the homeless, much like a religious caped crusader.

"I think the Pope is moving to the space of someone like the Dali Lama," Reid said.

Twitter has also allowed Pope Francis to appeal to his younger followers. Social media or not, Reid believes it's hope, optimism and mercy that define this Pope.

"He has a deep, deep heart. A warmth for people," Reid said.

Reid believes that in a lot of ways Pope Francis has accomplished more in 10 months, than some have in 10 years.

He said Francis is already in the same category as Pope John Paul II, and John XXIII, the only other two popes who were Time's Person of the Year.

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